April is Sexual Assault Awareness month, and for me, it's personal.

While one might recount a personal experience by claiming "I have this friend...," this story is very personal, and it is about a dear friend.

This April, fifteen years after her brutal attack, we've decided together that I should tell her story again in hope that other victims of sexual assault will come forward and report the crime to police.

It was the morning of the Kenduskeag Stream Canoe Race, back in April of 1999, when my phone rang before 7AM. When I answered I heard my friend's voice crying at the other end, and I'll never forget what I heard her say.

"Susan you've got to come, I've been raped and he just left," were the words coming from my friend. I remember tears immediately welting up in my eyes, yet in a controlled sort of panic I told her she needed to call the police right away, and I'd be right there.

She told me she couldn't call police because he threatened her before he left her apartment and she was terrified.

As I was racing to get to her, I called police on the way and reported the crime and I was the first to arrive as we lived fairly close to one another at the time.

It's been fifteen years since her attack and my friend has moved on to marry and have a family, but the memory of her attack is as clear as day, and every April we share and talk about our memories of that day.

“I woke up and there was a man standing in my bedroom and he proceeded to pounced on me,” she recalls. “He turned me over on my face and tried to suffocate me with a pillow to incapacitate me, and then he proceeded to rape me for about four hours.Read More: A Victim of Sexual Assault Shares Her Story in Hope of Empowering Others | http://q1065.fm/?p=141556&preview=true&trackback=tsmclip
“I woke up and there was a man standing in my bedroom and he proceeded to pounced on me,” she recalls. “He turned me over on my face and tried to suffocate me with a pillow to incapacitate me, and then he proceeded to rape me for about four hours.Read More: A Victim of Sexual Assault Shares Her Story in Hope of Empowering Others | http://q1065.fm/?p=141556&preview=true&trackback=tsmclip

"I woke up and there was a man standing in my bedroom and he proceded to pounce on me," she recalls.  "He turned me over on my face and tried to suffocate me with a pillow to incapacitate me, and then he proceeded to rape me for about four hours."

Her attacker will be behind bars for a longtime to come and while that certainly helps her move on with her life, the trauma she experienced continues to impact her life today as she suffers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD.

My friend and I encourage victims to come forward and report their abuse to the police, but as Tamar Mathieu, Executive Director of Rape Response Services explains, the decision to report is a very personal decision for the victim to make.

There are many services available for victims of sexual assault in Maine, and as more and more people educate themselves about the issue, the sooner we can eliminate the stigma and support those affected by such horrific violence.